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Over half the world's population, mostly from developing countries, use solid fuel for domestic purposes and are exposed to very high concentrations of harmful air pollutants with potential health effects such as respiratory problems, cardiovascular problems, infant mortality and ocular problems. The evidence also suggests that, although the total percentage of people using solid fuel is decreasing, the absolute number is currently increasing. Exposure to smoke from solid fuel burning increases the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer in adults, and acute lower respiratory tract infection/pneumonia in children. Despite the heterogeneity among studies, the association between COPD and exposure to smoke produced by burning different types of solid fuel is consistent. However, there is strong evidence that while coal burning is a risk factor for lung cancer, exposure to other biomass fuel smoke is less so. There is some evidence that reduction of smoke exposure using improved cooking stoves reduces the risk of COPD and, possibly, acute lower respiratory infection in children, so approaches to reduce biomass smoke exposure are likely to result in reductions in the global burden of respiratory disease.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur Respir J

Publication Date





239 - 254


Air Pollution, Indoor, Coal, Developing Countries, Environmental Exposure, Humans, Income, Lung, Poverty, Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive, Respiratory Tract Diseases, Risk Factors, Smoke